Friday, April 27, 2007

Personal: A Midsummer's Tale

The Pursuits of Law
At twenty-nine, I am well past the age to be appearing in exams; yet, that is precisely what I was doing for most of this past month. Come to think of it, I am not surprised. After all, there are only two things that can happen when you’re being tried on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder (in legalese, Section 120-B read with Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code): one, you end up spending your life locked up in a central jail (in which case, the best one can hope for is to pen a bestseller à la the ex-convict, Gregory David Robert’s Shantaram); or two, you become a lawyer. In my case, I am hoping it will be the latter. I’m told I won’t be the first: the late Mr. Dabir, noted criminal lawyer and longtime president of the Madhya Pradesh Bar Council, catapulted to the top of his profession after he was acquitted of the charge of murdering his wife. Post-acquittal, he took out an advertisement in the local papers, audaciously declaring, “if you’ve killed someone, come to me for acquittal.”

Now that my exams are ended, I can focus on the Final Arguments of my trial, due to commence on the 1st of May. The Supreme Court has directed the Sessions Court to pronounce judgment before the end of next month. The evidence, comprising about two hundred witnesses and running into thousands of pages, is copious: it has to be scrutinized with a toothcomb. This is precisely what we- my counsel, Mr. Surendra Singh and I (ably assisted by Mr. Rahul Tyagi, Mr. Shailesh Nitin Trivedi, and Mr. Pratul Shandilya)- did from the 22nd-24th of this month at Delhi. [SNT took a photograph of our deliberation, which is posted here.] Thankfully, the sole testimony implicating me- that on the night of 21st May 2003, I presided over a meeting of more than twenty persons (including the state bureau chief of the Times of India newspaper) in which I discussed plans to kill the deceased- has been contradicted by documentary evidence in the form of passports of not one but four of those persons allegedly present at that meeting, confirming that they were aboard a flight to London on that fateful night. This fact has also been corroborated by the passenger manifest of the relevant airline. Despite insinuating that the entries in the passport and passenger manifest have been ‘managed’, the Central Bureau of Investigation has not been able to produce any proof to substantiate its allegation despite being in possession of the documents for over ten months now. While demanding possession of the said documents, the CBI stated, “we are getting the matter investigated by the Interpol and the High Commission”. Infact, there is every reason to believe that the Bureau has deliberately suppressed the report of the Interpol investigation into the veracity of those entries. The other equally telling revelation is the belated appearance of two handwritten pages: the witness was not only asked to write beforehand what he was expected to tell the Magistrate but to make sure that he didn’t get anything wrong, the I.O. (Investigating Officer) cut-out sentences and rewrote them in his own handwriting. Here is positive proof of precisely how the Bureau manufactured ‘evidence’ against me. What really bothers me is- why?

Ideas for Communal Feasts

Finally, I want to mention something about weddings. There’s been a flood of them: every night, I end up going to atleast four; and there are many more that I can’t. At the risk of generalizing, I find that receptions have gotten more ostentatious and outlandish. Perhaps the recent Abhishek Bachchan- Aishwarya Rai wedding has something to do with this? Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to attend a simple communal-wedding of twenty-four couples at Dhaneli, a village in Balod. Raja Sahu, the local Zila Panchayat member organized it. He has been doing this for six years running. Needless to say, functions like this one save society from needless and wasteful expenditure, and should be emulated by the young. That is what I told the children (seen here perched on a tree- once again, SNT's photograph).
Papa’s 61st birthday is less than two days away. With the exception of last year, when I was in jail, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t with him on this day. So this year too, I will be going to Delhi to spend the afternoon with Papa. As always, he isn’t keen on celebrating. He’s told all his well-wishers (myself included) that he would be happiest if we spend the day doing something good for those less fortunate. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate one’s birthday. Or for that matter, weddings.

Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Eleven Things I Love Most About The Chhattisgarhi Summer

1. Buckets of chilled water filled with small sucking mangoes (choosni aam)

2. Drizzles that make earth smell like heaven

3. How the speed of life turns to slow motion

4. Afternoon siestas

5. Pre-dawn strolls across the countryside & late night drives to nowhere

6. Rhythmic whir of a ceiling fan as it slices lazily through the still air (beats the silent humming of a modern air-conditioner anytime)

7. Endlessly soaking about in a water-body (pond, pool at the foot of a waterfall, rivulet), like a water-buffalo

8. Constant complaining about the heat & plotting retreats to the hills- that seldom materialize

9. Cold, cold water from an earthen pot

10. Bohar bhaaji cooked in curd with fresh raw-mango chutney

11. Sleeping naked in wet white cotton bedsheets under clear, starry-skies in open-courtyards of old homes (thandi saféd chhadaron mein jage der tak, baithé rahein tassaworein jana kiyé huyé, dil dhoondta hai fir wohi fursat ke raat din…)

Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Film Review (D): Namasté London

Note: You can also comment on this post at the IMDB website.
Namasté London is a tedious film: it seeks to readapt Manoj Kumar’s “Purab aur Paschim” [East and West] to our times but the outcome is a yarn based on highly improbable and unbelievable premises.

For one thing, no first-generation NRI-Londoner [Rishi Kapoor] can possibly trick his remarkably liberated and fiercely independent adult-daughter [Katrina Kaif] into marrying a desi Punjabi [Akshay Kumar] while ostensibly “taking a journey across India to see the Taj Mahal”. Moreover, no self-respecting hot-blooded desi Punjabi is going to hang around London watching his ‘wife’ paint the town red with her fiancé- a spoilt and thrice-divorced heir of a British tycoon- in the hope that she will eventually come running back into his arms. As things turn out, that is exactly what happens.

Only two sequences stand out: first, the family’s hilarious interviewing of suitable matches for their daughter, including a lap-top yielding software-analyst from Hyderabad who demands to have a premarital ‘physical compatibility’ test with the prospective bride-to-be, and another loony from Delhi who thinks he is a character in an Ekta Kapoor soap-opera; secondly, a quiet family scene at the dinner table, which stands out for Rishi Kapoor’s efforts at suppressing his laughter. Apart from this, there is nothing else to the film.

Watch it only if you haven’t got anything better to do. Or, as in the case of the incorrigible Mohit Singhania, if your world begins and ends with Ms. Kaif!

AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Lessons from Rajnandgaon

Note: No part of this text shall be published without the author's prior and explicit consent.
In many ways, Rajnandgaon is my ‘Achilles’ heel’: while visiting the city for the first time in June 2003, I was accused of murdering someone I didn’t know previously existed; when I next returned to the city after a lapse of almost four agonizing years to campaign in a parliamentary bye-election, my father was arrested on the same trumped-up charge. In both cases, we fell victim to the worst sort of political vendetta, arising chiefly out of an absolute bankruptcy of issues: after all, as Christians living in a culture that venerates the giving of one’s life for the sake of others (see, John 3:16), what can be more slanderous or hurtful than to be accused of taking another human-life? Not a moment passed by in my 10½ month-long incarceration when I didn’t feel like the principal character in Tolstoy’s short story, “God Sees The Truth But Waits”.

The sole objective behind my father’s cathartic arrest at Gandai, some seventy kilometers from Rajnandgaon, became apparent during the Government’s submission filed before the hon’ble sessions court two days later: “even if the accused is to be enlarged on bail,” the Government Pleader (GP) pontificated, “he must be explicitly forbidden from campaigning in Rajnandgaon.” [The GP was dismissed shortly afterwards.] Despite this Freudian slip, the chief minister and his party went on to term this arrest as “part of the judicial process”. Not surprisingly, my father’s principal detractor within his own party, Motilal Vora, journeyed all the way from Delhi to Somni, a village on the Durg-Rajnandgaon border, to join chorus with the BJP. This, more than any other factor, led to my father’s subsequent public outburst against Mr. Vora: it hurt him that a senior leader of his own party should condone his arrest when it was so obviously politically motivated. Infact, the popular perception of Papa as a ‘calculating, shrewd politician’ is totally misconceived: what most political commentators don’t realize is that he has more often than not allowed his heart to dictate his politics.

The second part of the chief minister’s underhand tactics involved secret support, possibly even funding, of the BSP campaign under the mistaken belief that this would eat into the Congress’- and my father’s- dalit support base. Consequently, a senior IAS officer of the state administration, Aman Singh, was deputed to liaison with the BSP candidate, a notorious Raipur-based 'businessman' whose diatribe against my family grew increasingly ridiculous with every passing day so much so that he filed an affidavit stating that my mother, “Dr. (Mrs.) Renu Jogi, had threatened his life if he didn’t withdraw in favor of the Congress party” (!). As things turned out, he lost his deposit despite spending a large fortune on a very high profile campaign. The only surprising thing about this episode is the people he kept in touch with, as may be discerned from his telephonic call details, especially during the period of my father’s arrest [8th-15th March]: they included not only members of the BJP, including the chief minister and his candidate, Leelaram Bhojwani, but also the complainant, Satish Jaggi, and quite a few prominent state Congress leaders who I prefer not to name here.

In any event, Papa’s arrest, particularly the manner in which it was executed, catapulted as the predominant election issue at Rajnandgaon. A day after my father had been taken into custody by a 500-member armed contingent of the Raipur police led by its SSP Marawi, a television news crew visiting a remote hilltop Baiga village in the constituency was confronted with belligerent tribals demanding to know why Ajit Jogi had been arrested? Following his return to Rajnandgaon against medical advise, there was a fourfold increase in the number of people attending his public meetings. Editorializing about the Rajnandgaon mandate in the state’s largest circulated newspaper, ‘Dainik Bhaskar’, the noted journalist, Diwakar Muktibodh wrote:

“The arrest of former chief minister Ajit Jogi is proof of [the BJP’s] political bankruptcy. Which of the BJP’s political strategists thought that the party would gain from Ajit Jogi’s arrest? It is a simple matter and everybody knows that when Ajit Jogi’s name has not been mentioned in the CBI’s investigation-report and the matter is in court, then what is the meaning of arresting him immediately after a lower court issues a non-bailable warrant on the private complaint of Satish Jaggi? The political motives of this can be very easily understood. Similarly, the registering of the offense of dacoity against Jogi in the Dongargarh police station just one day before polling is also laughable. How can such serious charges be leveled against a man who is on a wheelchair? Nobody believes this, not even the voters of Rajnandgaon. This move of the BJP also backfired, and far from turning the people against Jogi, it generated an environment of sympathy for him.”
[Dainik Bhaskar, Raipur, 2.04.2007, page 1, translation mine]

Done by Duryodhana?

As things stand, the people’s verdict confirms Mr. Muktibodh’s opinion. Indeed, the plot to keep Papa out of the campaign backfired on the ruling BJP and its chief minister, who rather humiliatingly, lost both in his home constituency, Dongargarh, and his hometown, Kawardha, where the chief ministerial couple had taken a hectic door-to-door campaign in a last-ditch effort to save face. His post-electoral attempt at justification is at best, feeble: “Operation Duryodhan,” he rationalized shortly after the result was announced, “prevailed over Inflation.” This contention, which is in total reversal of what he was saying earlier, is easily countered by posing two questions:

• How did his party’s candidate, Leelaram Bhojwani, manage to retain his hometown, Rajnandgaon, by a margin of more than 5000 votes despite Duryodhan? Here, ‘the son of the soil’ factor seems to have overridden every other factor, at least in the township. The indisputable surmise that Mr. Bhojwani remains more popular in his home constituency than the chief minister is in his makes the chief minister’s defeat even more shameful.

• Why didn’t the RJD lose Palamu in neighboring Jharkhand even though its MP had been implicated in Duryodhan? To say that Duryodhan presented incumbent political parties with a fiat accompli- that its candidate will ipso facto be ousted in the ensuing bye-elections- is therefore incorrect. If anything, Palamu is indicative of a rather unfortunate trend: the downplaying, even acceptance, of corruption as an issue among the nation’s electorate.

It is obvious to me that the BJP has learnt little from Kota; in all likelihood, it will learn even lesser from Rajnandgaon. At a polling booth in Virendranagar, a puzzled presiding officer was confronted by angry women voters demanding that a complaint be registered against the local BJP workers for giving them ‘german’ (germanium) earrings while misleading them into believing that they were made of pure silver (!). Likewise, many BSP youth workers were disappointed upon learning that they will now have to make hefty installments of monthly payments on motorcycles ‘gifted’ to them, failing which these will be repossessed by the finance companies. Even more shockingly, a journalist recently emailed me a photograph of the chief minister’s wife, Veena Singh, handing a huge wad of thousand-rupee notes to one of her party workers from an overstuffed purse at Rajnandgaon, even as onlookers continue to stare at her (see below). It is a telling picture with a very clear message: people’s hearts- and votes- can’t be bought with money.

The other, much more pertinent, lesson concerns the tribals of the state. The BJP suffered its biggest defeat- of a whopping 22000 votes- from the Lok Sabha’s sole tribal constituency, Ambagarh-Chowki. Personally, I can discern three factors that contributed to this: first and foremost, it is a reaction against the atrocities perpetuated by the state-sponsored Salva Judum (SJ) movement, in which hundreds, if not thousands, of tribals have been killed; secondly, the numerous high-profile deaths of tribals and scheduled castes in police custody; thirdly, the abject failure of this state government to keep its election promises to the tribals vis-à-vis giving a cow to every tribal family, waiving of farmers’ debts and a monthly stipend of Rs. 500 to every unemployed youth. Taken cumulatively, it reveals an increasing awareness among the state’s tribal electorate.


Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

get the latest posts in your email. ताज़े पोस्ट अब अपने ई-मेल पर सीधे पढ़ें

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

DISCLAIMER. आवश्यक सूचना

1. No part of this Blog shall be published and/or transmitted, wholly or in part, without the prior permission of the author, and/or without duly recognizing him as such. (१. इस ब्लॉग का कोई भी भाग, पूरा या अधूरा, बिना लेखक की पूर्व सहमति के, किसी भी प्रकार से प्रसारित या प्रकाशित नहीं किया जा सकता.)
2. This Blog subscribes to a Zero Censorship Policy: no comment on this Blog shall be deleted under any circumstances by the author. (२. ये ब्लॉग जीरो सेंसरशिप की नीति में आस्था रखता है: किसी भी परिस्थिति में कोई भी टिप्पणी/राय ब्लॉग से लेखक द्वारा हटाई नहीं जायेगी.)
3. The views appearing on this Blog are the author's own, and do not reflect, in any manner, the views of those associated with him. (३. इस ब्लॉग पर दर्शित नज़रिया लेखक का ख़ुद का है, और किसी भी प्रकार से, उस से सम्बंधित व्यक्तियों या संस्थाओं के नज़रिए को नहीं दर्शाता है.)

CONTACT ME. मुझसे संपर्क करें

Amit Aishwarya Jogi
Anugrah, Civil Lines
Raipur- 492001
Chhattisgarh, INDIA
Telephone/ Fascimile: +91 771 4068703
Mobile: +91 942420 2648 (AMIT)
Skype: jogi.amit
Yahoo!: amitjogi2001